X Marks the Spot - Make Your Entrepreneur's Map
"Absolute clarity about what you want is the starting point of all great accomplishment."
I'm making my way through "The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success" by Brian Tracy and this was the first sentence I came across that made me write notes in the book. (Yes, I write in my books, but only the non-fiction.)
I think this concept is more of a struggle for entrepreneurs than we expect. "Of course I know what I want," you're thinking, "that's why I started my bakery/dog-grooming business/silk-screened t-shirt shop." What I want is right there in the name!
But there's more to it than that. Maybe you started a bakery because friends and family raved about your cupcakes. Maybe you felt a calling to sell cookies. Maybe you already worked in a bakery and the owner wanted to sell it to you.
Putting flour, sugar, and eggs in the bowl is the easy part. Identifying what you want as the result of that is the hard part, the part that many entrepreneurs fail to think about at all.
Put another way - what is your long term goal? Are you aiming for financial independence? A certain dollar level of profit? Do you want to have employees, so you can just manage from a beach? Do you want a bakery in every state in the nation? Do you want to work yourself to the bone so you can sell it and retire in five years?
If you're now thinking, "Geez, Jen, I dunno. I just want to make cupcakes and maybe some money," then it's time to make yourself a plan.
If you wanted to drive from California to New York, would you just get in the car every morning and drive towards the sunrise? You could, and maybe you'd get there, someday. But in the meantime, you'd waste a lot of time on missed exits, backtracking, wrong turns, and detours. Wouldn't it make more sense to use a map?
Your business is the same! But you get to create the map your entrepreneur's map.
Where do you want to be in a year? Five years?
The first step in creating your entrepreneur's map is to identify a destination, a goal, just like you would if you wanted to drive across the country.
Then you might map out the day-to-day destinations - I'm starting in San Diego and the first day I'll drive as far as Phoenix and while there I'll stay at a Marriott and visit Taliesin West (the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright) and the Musical Instrument Museum. And from there I'll drive to El Paso, Texas.
In the same way, you might decide that your goal for the first year of your bakery is to sell 5,000 cupcakes, build a website, and hire one part-time employee.
But wait, if I'm in Arizona, shouldn't I see the Grand Canyon? What about Mt. Rushmore? Sure, you can, but they're not at all on the way from Phoenix to El Paso. If it was important to you to see the Grand Canyon, or Mt. Rushmore, you should have planned to hit Albuquerque or Denver next, not Texas.
Because just like it's really hard to get places without wasting time and energy on a cross-country drive, it's hard to get where you want to go with your business without a plan.
There's a lot more to it than just doing the daily tasks, whether that's making the cupcakes, grooming the dogs, or making the t-shirts. You also have to spend time doing some "higher level thinking" about your business.
So set aside that time on a regular basis. Think about where you ultimately want to be. Write it down. Break it down into smaller steps. And periodically - maybe once a month - revisit your notes and make sure you're on track. Make your map. Track your progress.
Because without an entrepreneur's map, you're just driving around aimlessly. That might be fun and exciting in the beginning, but eventually will cause you to wonder why you started in the first place.